A Neglected Strand of Retributivism

Jeremy Waldron, Lex Talionis, 34 Ariz. L. Rev. 25 (1992). Matthew Kramer Although Jeremy Waldron's article on the lex talionis is not as recent as most of the other writings covered by JOTWELL, I came upon it only a couple of years ago. I feel that it should be discussed here, because it has not received as much attention as it deserves within the philosophy of criminal law. Retributivism as a philosophy of punishment has emerged in a multitude of forms, but virtually every retributivist maintains that punishments should fit the just deserts of offenders. That abstract idea has been cashed out with somewhat more concrete principles, each of which is itself in need of cashing out. Many retributivists invoke the notion of commensurateness, as they contend that the severity of any punishment should match the seriousness of the crime(s) for which the punishment is imposed. Commensurateness, a cardinal property, consists in quantitative equivalence. Many retributivists additionally or alternatively rely on the notion of proportionality, as they contend that any differences in the severity of punishments should be correlated with differences in the gravity of the crimes for which the punishments are imposed. Proportionality, an ordinal property, consists in an alignment between two sets of quantitative gradations. Continue reading "A Neglected Strand of Retributivism"

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